After Hours

The Weekly Round-Up: Pac-Man stole my productivity

When Google logos go good...

The Round-Up has been a bit busy, rushing around the maze - sorry, office - this week.

Maybe it's time for another of those power-pellets - apologies, cups of coffee - before that pesky red ghost - excuse me, the editor - swings by again and asks whether this week's column is finished yet.

Which, by the time you dear reader, are reading it, will of course be the case. But right now the Round-Up is running waaay behind… oohh, look, quick, get the cherry!

If you have no idea what the Round-Up is raving on about - well done. You are hard-working, dedicated and a credit to your organisation.

But if you know exactly what it is that has the Round-Up all shook up, you are a fellow slacker and the Round-Up embraces you as a brother, or indeed, sister.

Last week, you see, to celebrate 30 years since the launch of Pac-Man, Google reworked the logo on its search front page into a playable version of the game. Nice touch.

And since then, according to one set of calculations, the game has contributed to the loss of five million hours of work time - a sizeable chunk of which is down to the Round-Up (sorry boss).

According to software company Rescue Time, the result of the game going up on the front page of Google was $120m in lost productivity. It points out that for the same cost, you could hire all 19,835 Google employees, "from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors", and get six weeks of their time.

"Imagine what you could build with that army of man power," the company marvels.

Imagine indeed - perhaps between the whole gang, you might even get to the fabled 256th level of Pac-Man. Or build a globe spanning search engine. But beating Pac-Man sounds more fun.

If you think five million wasted hours is bad, well, it could have been worse. As Rescue Time's blog points out, only a minority of Google users realised the logo was actually playable (you had to click on the 'insert coin' button next to the search button.)

Even so, the game proved so popular that Google has now made it permanently available on its own page, which will no doubt bring joy to bosses around the world as productivity slumps further.

The Round-Up would give you the link to it, but frankly it's aiming for the high score and doesn't need the competition. But if Google is looking for another game to offer homage to, the Round-Up would submit its personal old-skool favourite: Defender. There's at least another ten million wasted hours to be had there.



Want to know more about what's happening at Silicon Towers, aside from games of Pac-Man? Check out our new Facebook page which is updated with tit-bits and tittle-tattle thoughout the week by the team here. You can find the Facebook page here , and click 'like' for the regular updates. If you're too grown up for that, join the LinkedIn group for the latest on the CIO Jury and other issues. And of course there's Twitter too, find us at twitter.com/siliconlatest.



Most of the press releases that flop into the Round-Up's inbox usually start with something like: "Dull business X would like to announce the synergistic launch of its end-to-end tedium-creation solutions platform". Which is maybe why a little bit of Pac-Man can be forgiven.

So image the tea-spilling excitement that occurred when the Round-Up spotted a release with the following intro: "A scientist at the University of Reading has become the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus." Not bad, eh?

Dr Mark Gasson, from the School of Systems Engineering at the university, has an RFID chip implanted in his left hand, which allows him secure access to his university building and his mobile phone. But once infected, according to the university, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it and, the university added: "Should other devices have been connected to the system, the virus would have been passed on."

This showed - according to Dr Gasson - that because implantable technology has now developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and manipulating data, they can be infected by viruses - so technology will need to keep pace so that implants can be safely used in the future.

Which is all well and good, but the Round-Up refers you back to that arresting first line: " the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus".

As far at the Round-Up understands it, there's quite a difference between having a chip under your skin which happens to have a virus on it, and a computer virus infecting a human being. After the initial excitement, this distinction was not lost on other industry commentators: as Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, put it: "It makes no difference if an RFID chip is injected under your skin or stitched into the lining of your jacket."

Cluley also pointed out how difficult it is for RFID chips to spread a virus, commenting rather memorably: "I've got more chance of being flattened by a falling grand piano than I have of getting my dog infected by a PC virus next time I take him to the vets."

Of course, if a human being was actually infected with a computer virus there might be some very odd consequences.

That bloke from accounts who is always telling all the girls he is in love with them at the office party? Maybe he's not simply a cad but is in fact infected with the LoveBug virus.

The bloke who's always trying to sell you dodgy watches and handbags in the canteen? Maybe he's a fine upstanding member of society currently under the control of a spam-spewing botnet.

Anyone who's fallen foul of a Trojan horse should be easy to spot (assuming horses are not a common sight in your office). But as for the chap in IT who is suffering from worms, well, the Round-Up doesn't even want to go there.



Is your office missing a Mac fanboi this fine day? Yes, the iPad finally hits these shores today, which means the Mac fan hordes have descended - as is now traditional - upon the Regent Street Apple store to be among the first to hand over their cash in return for the latest piece of hardware (although of course the real hipsters ordered online weeks ago).

Check out silicon.com's photos of the whole spectacle here but as ever the Round-Up would like to remind those elated consumers who are waving their iPads above their heads like a trophy - you didn't invent it, you just bought it.



And for our last plunder of the news basket this week, we go from iPad to iPlayer: you can now tell your friends when you're getting square eyes with the latest update to Auntie's online telly service. There's more here .

And from iPlayer to I can't believe I friended my boss and then posted the status message: "Taking a sickie to brush up on Pac-Man lolz". Yes, it's time to take a tour of Facebook's new privacy settings here.

And finally - the Round-Up: can't live with it or can't live without it? Let us know what you think of all the Round-Up's hard work by dropping an email to editorial@silicon.com.

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